Donolo fires Kinsella; Ignatieff's poll numbers set to rise
The first move by Peter Donolo, Michael Ignatieff's new chief of staff, was to fire just about everyone in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition, other than the leader himself.
Last week I asked the obvious question: did Donolo fire Warren Kinsella, the frat boy in charge of Ignatieff's gaffe-prone war room? Given Kinsella's string of highly publicized failures (here's a particularly embarrassing one), it seemed obvious. A close inspection of Donolo's new organizational chart shows that, indeed, the great restaurant critic and girls' school guidance counselor had been shown the door.
Does anyone see a pattern here? Kinsella has been told "thanks, but no thanks" by many people who have worked with him, from the consulting firm Navigator, to the National Post where he had a column, to the Canadian Jewish Congress where he served on a committee until he threatened to blacklist the Canada-Israel Committee. It's not just him being fired; it's him firing back at his former employers and even former friends, publicly and viciously. To me, nothing tells that unhappy story better than Kinsella's bizarre and brutal attacks on TVO's Steve Paikin -- attacks that, of course, only blew up in Kinsella's own face. What a social misfit.
I guess Peter Donolo was sick of having a "human shrapnel machine" inside the office. It's poetic justice that it was Donolo, Jean Chretien's key man, who finally took care of the Kinsella problem.
When I asked the question on my blog last week, Kinsella -- the most thin-skinned man in Ottawa, judging by the number of defamation threats he issues -- went into his patented damage control mode. Or, as the rest of us call it, lying. He told the Globe and Mail's Jane Taber that he in fact had not been fired; she dutifully reported that he was the last man standing in the OLO.
Today Kinsella himself admitted what will soon become evident: he ain't running the war room anymore. As with all of his involuntary departures, he has some pitiful spin; today it's that that his focus will be "municipal and provincial politics - and punk rock, and hockey rink philosophy, and the law, and bad puns, and clumsy alliterations, and the other stuff I like". Wow, that's weak.
Look, politics is an unstable career; it's not unusual for people to be fired -- even good people. It's just that most folks don't go to such lengths to cover up the fact, or to spin it. I'm guessing that it will be a while before Taber takes anything Kinsella says at face value again.
Donolo's decision to fire Kinsella has been done, so far, without Kinsella smearing Ignatieff as he did before, and as he did continuously when Paul Martin was the leader. I'd call that Donolo's first executive success, though I wouldn't bet on it being permanent -- like a vial of nitroglycerine, Kinsella is quite touchy, and prone to angry explosions.
When Ignatieff hired Kinsella, the Liberals were essentially tied with the Conservatives. On the day Donolo fired Kinsella, the Liberals are 15% behind. I call it the Kinsella Effect; Donolo calls it time to end amateur hour, and bring in some grown-ups.
Though I'm a Conservative booster, I've got to be candid: I predict that with Kinsella gone, Ignatieff will begin to close that 15-point gap.